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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When facing your marriage expectations, it's important to consider where they came from.
Last time we examined how expectations can be helpful or hurtful to your marriage.

But how do you identify good, healthy, helpful expectations as opposed to those that are unreasonable and potentially damaging?

To help you sort out the good, the bad and the ugly, you might just want to look at the sources of your expectations.

Some Not-So-Healthy Sources

Generally speaking the sources below almost always lead to unrealistic expectations:
  • TV & Movies - for the most part modern movies convey totally unhelpful depiction of marriage, whether it's mocking the institution itself, denigrating husbands, or promoting promiscuity as harmless and normal. Despite the name, reality TV is not anywhere close to reality, and most of the shows teach us all that love is selfish and about your own personal happiness.
  • Porn - it's not real, folks, in any way shape or form. It's dangerous. Just because a particular act is shown in porn doesn't make it wrong (between husband and wife), but at the same time it also doesn't make it normal or typical. Your sexual expectations need to principally be developed from within your relationship. 
  • Romance Novels - These are not real either. Though they maybe aren't in the same league with pornography, they hold a similar kind of danger. (I'm not talking about novels that contain an element of romance, but the romance novel genre.) The "romances" portrayed tend to be unrealistic, and a wife shouldn't expect her husband to be like the fictionalized and idealized characters found in the pages of trashy novels.
  • Divorced or Struggling Friends and Family - nothing will lower your expectations of your own marriage like hanging around those whose marriage is in rough shape. Not that you should abandon people in tough marriage situations. Just watch that your own expectations are not affected. I know this danger, because it's happened to us.
  • Conventional Wisdom - As with most things in the Kingdom, God's idea of how we should do marriage is mostly upside down from what the world proposes. Examples could fill several posts.

A Mixed Bag

These sources can contribute either positively or negatively to your marriage expectations. Tread with caution.
  • Your Church - Churches don't always do a great job of instructing on marriage, especially the sexual aspects. Some churches do an excellent job of supporting and building the marriages in their congregations, but others much less so.  
  • Your Parents - Probably the marriage you observed the most, besides your own, is the one between your parents, seeing both the good and the bad. Determine to emulate the good and avoid the bad, but don't project your parents' negative behaviors onto your spouse. 
  • Marriage Books - Not everyone who gets a publishing contract has the inside track on truth. Of course there are marriage books that are outstanding and extremely helpful. Just consider what you read prayerfully. The one flaw I see in many marriage books is that they advertise quick fixes and simple, universal solutions. The problem with cookie cutter solutions is that there aren't very many cookie cutter marriages.  
  • Marriage Bloggers - Though it pains me to say, I've seen some phenomenally bad marriage advice doled out by well-intentioned marriage bloggers. I've no doubt given some myself. I've also seen lots of really excellent stuff. As with books, weigh what you read carefully and prayerfully. It's also dangerous to take a single post and run with it until you've read enough to understand where a particular writer is coming form. To learn more about me, check out my recent Friday Favorite post, What Is The Journey to Surrender

Good Sources
  • The Bible - Marriage was God's idea, and His is the best marriage perspective around. Expectations that flow from the Word will always be healthy ones. Of course the passages of Scripture about marriage require interpretation and application, and that's why we need...
  • The Holy Spirit - God is for marriage in general, but also for your marriage in particular. He longs to partner with you as he leads you into all truth through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13), including helping you have healthy marriage expectations.  
  • Love and Grace - Any expectations you have for your marriage that are based on what I call the two bookends of marriage, love and grace, will more than likely produce good fruit in your relationship.
When you stumble across expectation in your marriage or presumptions about your spouse, stop to consider the source. Identifying unhealthy sources just might save you from some painful disappointments in the future.

What other sources of expectations have you found to be consistently helpful or consistently harmful? Leave a comment.


Keith Moore said...


Excellent post. I do think that we need to distinguish between church as represented by preaching/teaching and church as community. A group of like-minded friends who are "for" each other's marriages can be a great vehicle for the Spirit & the word.

Scott said...

Thanks for the comment, Keith. I agree completely with your assessment that even if a particular church doesn't have a formal marriage support organization, couples can really help each other in the way you describe.

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